Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Lovejoy's Version of Chaos Theory

After a long, hard day of cooking and entertaining, I stepped into a fairyland as this wonderful night blooming Cereus did its slow dance of opening for me. 

Dear Friends,

We're in full summer regalia here and paddling hard against a current of chaos. The last few days have been filled with family and friends from around the state, country, and France. I learned that the sure way to have total chaos is to have a blend of generations from age 4 to 86 crammed into a small kitchen or terrace and to use cloth napkins, tablecloth, and china for all meals. Yikes. Somehow I made the food and a friend made 4 pounds of pasta pesto. Jeff did hours of clean-up, but the weekend was a success and filled with love and laughter and unforgettable memories.

Won't you join us?

Early morning found us at our local Farmer's Market. Isn't that cauliflower gorgeous? I used it to make Patsy Anderson's warm bean, olive, and cauliflower salad. 

The recipe for Patsy's fabulous salad was in a blog entry entitled "Sweet and Southern Comfort" on March 28th. You have to try this recipe, which gets rave reviews.

Great local tomatoes (mine are all still green) which I sliced, topped with some fresh basil and shallots, and dressed with seasoned rice vinegar and olive oil.

My friends Steve and Heli brought me a load of fresh peaches from their tree; you'll see how I used them a bit later.  Look at this rainbow of baby bell peppers...

...which I drizzled with olive oil, topped with sea salt, and baked at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Then I stuffed them with a mixture of goat cheese, cream cheese, and herbs, dusted them with smoked paprika, baked them for about 8 more minutes, and slipped them under the broiler for a minute. These were a HUGE hit. I made about 100, and they disappeared quickly.

Hmmm, my helpers seem otherwise occupied.

I buttered the casserole and lined it with sliced peaches, then filled it with about a dozen more peaches mixed with blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.

This topping was the crowning glory-country style.

I baked my crumble in a 9" x 14" Le Creuset (aka heavy as heck) casserole.


14 peaches
1 pint blueberries
1 pint blackberries
1 pint raspberries
1 Tbsp. real vanilla
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 lemon zested and juiced
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup of small pecan pieces (I've used walnut too and they're great)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, diced, room temperature

Place Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Mix the fruit in a large bowl, add vanilla, brown sugar, zest and juice of lemon, and cinnamon. Toss to coat evenly. Pour the mixture into your casserole and set aside.


In a medium bowl, stir the flour, granulated sugar, oats, baking soda, salt, and zest. Add the pieces of butter and use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour mixture until butter is the size of peas. Sprinkle this evenly over the fruit and bake for one hour. 

I served this hot with a big bowl of freshly whipped heavy cream and let everyone top their own. This was a gigantic hit. Bonus, the house smelled divine.

The big, old farm table out under the grape arbor was where the guests gathered. This gorgeous clam shell Echeveria was tucked among the glass hurricane lanterns.

A few of them toasting happiness for my niece and her new fiance.

This is Hugo from Paris, France. He wouldn't eat corn ("American food") or sample my cobbler because it had cinnamon in it, and he assured me that people in his country don't eat cinnamon. Is that true?

Chris and Jordan just became engaged. We'll love having Chris in our family.

Chris loves children....HURRAH!

This was the last gathering at our home for the season. Next week our sweet caretaker moves in, we pack up, ship boxes to Maine, and get ready for my book tour in a few weeks. Last Wednesday night at 11 p.m.,  Jeff did a final editing of my book, and we sent it off to my editor at Workman Publishing. Now it is her turn.

Please visit my new Lowe's blog posting. I have a simple and fun project, which you can do for your own garden. I think you'll like it.

Thanks a million for your loving comments and letters. I hope to see some of you in Austin, Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Wichita, Kansas.

In the meantime, tune in to "Gardening Naturally" with host John Dromgoole on KLBJ-AM 590 (live on the internet or on radio if you're near Austin, Texas) Sunday, July 17. Call in to the show at 512-836-0590. His show airs on Saturdays from 9-11 a.m. and Sundays from 8-10 a.m., Central Time. John is the owner of The Natural Gardener in Austin.




Glimpses of Glory said...

Hi Sharon,
Lovely post, yummy food photos!
I feel like I was a guest at your party. Very fun!
Blessing on your book tour,

Sheilagh said...

That food looks SCRUMPTIOUS, it must be wonderful to be a guest at one of your gatherings:)

Michelle said...

This all looks so divine...the food, the people, the setting. I have many pieces of Le Creuset and *puffy heart* them but they are heavy as heck!

Marigold Jam said...

What fun - reminds me of the family picnic our American friends too us to when we visited with them many years ago. How lovely to have such a big family. Oh and French people do eat cinnamon - it's called canelle - as I can atest to having lived there! I am guessing that was an excuse not to eat something Hugo didn't care for!!

Vee said...

Fun to see the family all gathered round. Is Hugo family? Cute kid. (He doesn't know what he's missing. But then the French can keep their camembert.)

Too bad you were not already here. The next few days are being called the very best that could possibly be offered. We can already tell that they'll be corkers.

Happy journey...

Thea said...

looks like a fabulous party! you must be so happy to have your book along to the next phase! hugs, t

Anonymous said...

such a lovely post and such a lovely group og people,, that peach desert made my mouth water,, I just knew it was coming,, you have a cozy home that just looks so loved,

Dawn said...

So much summer joy!
Congratulations on the new family member. :)
The food looks delicious.

Susan said...

Dearest friend, Thank you for the beautiful photos--wish I was there to enjoy the bounty. Maybe one day. XOXO

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

Your posts always make me so hungry! I'm going to have to try out those bell pepper hors d'oeuvres and that cobbler.

And I'm jealous that you've seen a night-blooming cereus. Ever since reading eudora welty years & years ago I have wanted to see one.

I'm very sorry that I missed you at Ethel's memorial service.


What a wonderful gathering, Sharon. Congrats on getting the book finished. Safe travels!

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

What a wonderful, fun and love filled gathering. The food looks wonderful and I love your heart shaped dish for the tomato salad.

Enjoy your trip to Maine and your time spent there. It is such a sweet place.

Enjoy your book tour and I hope your next book is all that you hope it is. It will be lovely I'm sure.

Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

Pat said...

Everything looks delicious - and thank you for sharing that recipe!!
We look forward to postings from Maine...wishing you safe journey.

Blondie's Journal said...

It all looks SO delicious, Sharon. I'd like to make the bell pepper dish as an appetizer. Did you say you made 100?! We'll see how many I get on my wee little plant! :-)

Wish you were stopping in Chicago on your book tour! Would love to meet you in person! Have a safe trip back to Maine.


kj said...

hello dear sharon , those tomatoes in that heart dish is a sight to behold.

your gatherings are fantastic. here we cooked up 60 meals over three days and it all went smoothly. the hit was my red velvet cupcakes (no surprise).

you will be close to me in maine. just saying....happy travels and happy trails


Sharon Lovejoy said...

UH OH, KJ beat me...but I was close behind her in the meal cook race.



Anonymous said...

What a feast, and what a happy occasion!
Wishing you and Jeff all the best on your trek to Maine and beyond.

Here I Am Carrie said...

Just love the beautiful spread you and your family put on. Simple foods in a simple surrounding. Glad everything went off well. So you are headed off to Maine. I was actually born there. Only made it back there again in 2006 for an east coast tour. I think I could only spend the sunniest of the months there.

Deb said...

looks like a wonderful gathering.

Lili said...

You just amaze me so much Sharon. Your chaos is most beautiful and I can tell you put loving care in EVERYTHING you do. Your recipes look scrumptious and all that "fresh from the market" fare just has me salivating. That table filled with all those smiling happy faces just says it all. So happy you will soon be Maine bound! Love to you dear. ~Lili

Pondside said...

What a wonderful party!
Good luck with the tour, Sharon, and safe journey to the other side of the continent. The west coast will miss you!

Melissa said...

What fun! Thanks for the recipes!

Lori ann said...

So lovely! Sharon, you are the most gracious hostess (can i be in your family too?).

i love family gatherings like this, memories to last for a lifetime. all your recipes sound delicious, i have a few baskets of baby peppers, i need to make those appetizers.

and your book is on to the next phase? YES!

hugs and love from your southern neighbor,

From the Kitchen said...

Lovely! I'm in awe of your wonderful gathering and the food that looks so delicious--how can it not be when prepared with love!!

I had to laugh at your friend from France not eating the corn. My husband, born in Poland and educated in England, was aghast when I offered him corn on the cob. He assumed that everywhere it was food for swine. He has since changed his culinary mind.


Unknown said...

Delightful, all of it! Great you could gather with loved ones before you head east! Will be nice to have you on " this" coast again! I'm off to the farmers market today and I just have to try your cobbler dish...Oh, and that heart shaped dish with tomatoes? LOVE IT!
Happy and Safe travels to you!


Mozart's Girl said...

mmmmm...all looks wonderful dearest Sharon! What a party! I just organised a foodie weekend for 14, so I know how much work goes into it all...but a joyous outcome. And as already discussed, I think Hugo may have been pulling your leg! Cinnamon is divine, he will grow into it! Love to you & Jeff xoxo Rachel

black eyed susans kitchen said...

By the time I finished reading your post I was sooo hungry!! It all looks wonderful and I am so glad I found you. The French don't eat cinnamon? Hilarious...I am pretty sure that they do. I have 3 young adults of my own, so I found Hugo to be just adorable.

Tonya Gunn said...

what a beautiful gathering Sharon.

Warm wishes, Tonya

Claire M said...

Sounds like a wonderful celebration!!

P.S. Both last night, and the night before we had 3 blooms from our Night Blooming Cereus. They are going crazy this year!! So fun to see yours. They aren't that common. (from San Jose, CA, but my heart is back in SLO from college at CP).

Kay Guest said...

Dear Sharon,
We have had a night-blooming Cereus for 17 years now and it is over 6 feet tall!! Just this month, a new shoot (this is correct?) came out of the top and my husband cut it off and it will HOPEFULLY root. My Aunt Leona gave it to us and she passed away in 1995, so I feel that her beauty is still with us...
Oh, and it is quite a feat for my husband to get the cactus in the garage for the winter, he is 6'4" and sometimes it is a struggle. But oh, it's all worth it!!! (Ha, easy for ME to say!)

Kay Guest said...

My English husband said that he never had cinnamon growing up in England either...hard for me because I love it!
(Just one Kay this time.)

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Dear Kay aka (Kay),

I loved the story of your husband moving the cactus into the garage. Luckily, we leave everything out all year long...our garage is tiny.

Things do get sunburned though, and lots of things, including the Cereus, got burned during our last hot spell.

Cinnamon toast??? Don't the English eat sugar and cinnamon toast??



Kay Guest said...

Hey Sharon!
Maybe they eat cinnamon in England now (possibly one of the many things that are done now that didn't use to happen...maybe one of your English readers could let us know?) but not when my husband growing up in the swinging 60's. (YEAH YEAH YEAH BEATLES!) When I am over there, I like to eat the toasted teacakes or scones with strawberry preserves & cream...oh dear, this is making me drool!
And don't even get me started on how wonderful their veggies are!
Kay (Kay)

Vicki Boster said...

Sharon- what a beautiful post- such a great tribute to family--
The food and recipes look divine. I've saved that bean salad recipe from your earlier pst- I must make it! It's too bad that cute litte guy from Francevwould not sample your cobbler- he sure missed out! We've had some wonderful cobblers here at our house too- and my special home made ice cream. Those baby bell peppers look wonderful- I'll be all over that recipe as wel!

Good luck with your move- I know your lives are always in a state of busy- ness!! I wish you great success on your book tour. Are you going to be anywhere close to me?


Susan Lemke said...

Just a note to let you know that I have been using the knox unflavored gelatin on my plants and I love it. Thanks for the great tip.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Susan,

I love these simple tips. Thanks for the kind words!


Natalie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Natalie said...

Hi Sharon! What a lovely feast! The food just looks scrumptious. And congratulations to the newly engaged couple as well :-)

a woman who is said...

re: Hugo...he won't eat American food, but he seems just fine with wearing American sweatshirts LOL!

You cook like I do on steroids. When my son isn't around with a large crowd I break out the paper napkins though =)

I am definitely going to try that roasted pepper recipe...sounds and looks amazing.

I thought of you today as my grand babies and I made Hollyhock dolls!

Anonymous said...

A lovely post Sharon...from the delicious foods to the company and settings...and I giggled at the young Francais...yes, very true, very French!

Casa Mariposa said...

What a great gathering! The food sounds wonderful! I will definitely try the peppers since I have a bunch in my fridge already! :o) Thanks for the recipes.

jerilanders said...

Now that is my kind of Chaos, what an excellent entertainer you are. Can I come to dinner too??

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

What lovely food for such a happy occasion! Those little cheese stuffed roasted peppers look glorious! Lots here for me to try!
And what--no CORN??? NO cinnamon??? Not even willing to try a sample? Poor boy!!!

Anonymous said...

That stuffed pepper recipe sounds like a great one. What fun to spend time with all those family members and friends from afar - you are blessed. Best wishes for a fabulous book tour and an easy move to Maine!

alex said...

I promise, we DO eat cinnamon!!!

Alex, from France!

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

Dear Sharon,

1. The Herbal Husband and I are very envious of your cereus flower, but really happy that it blooms for you! Our plant is from the 1990's and has never bloomed! It just lingers in the basement.

2. Was just in France as you know and the French contrary to Hugo do eat cinnamon. They even eat it on their delicious cheese! Just a small French joke!

3. You have to get better helpers, Sharon. They can't eat the delicious food unless they participate or I may have to start vetting them for you! Ha!

Is this your bird book book tour? Wow, that time went fast or may be it was because I was away! Any way always lovely to eat with your family and friends. Lucky, lucky people. Safe travels to Maine and on your book tour. xxoo Nancy

Enchanted Crush said...

Oh my you have been busy while I was absent. {it's Tammie the old farm chick}. How wonderful to have so much family together yet I do feel your agony over the washables.
Have a safe trip and wishing you great success with the new book & tour.

Kit said...

Hope your tour is going well. Can't wait to hear from you in Maine! Kit

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Dear All,

We have been on-the-road for the past five days and have three more work days before we fly to our beloved Maine.

I've met some wonderful people, visited old friends, seen fabulous gardens, signed lots of books, done television and radio shows, but it has all been a great adventure...but what is keeping me going? MAINE!!!!!!

We are in Dallas right now and it was 107 degrees yesterday...expected to be as hot or hotter today. I see the damage to landscapes, trees, and people everywhere. Pray for rain and some relief.

Onward to Oklahoma City for Ag in the Classroom where I will kick off the conference for 500 educators.



Unknown said...

Sharon your gatherings always look so amazing! And thanks for the recipe!

Cyndy B said...

Hi Sharon - I'm enjoying reading a copy of 'A Blessing of Toads' which I picked up at the Henniker Book Farm in NH. As I was reading I started to notice recognizable landmarks: Pemaquid, Cove Road, John's Bay. I did a quick net search and realized you were from South Bristol where my Dad and his wife and family have a place. Small small wonderful world. Loving your work!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi there Cyndy B,

I'd write directly to you, but no return e-mail address to be found. Of course Cove Rd. has another word in front of it, but I didn't want to destroy the privacy of the folks on the Cove.

Amazing that your family has a place in South Bristol. It is such a tiny place, but as you said, "Small small wonderful world." ESPECIALLY South Bristol.



Nan said...

You are truly a wonder(ful) woman!! I am amazed at all you do, keeping your cheery good nature.